It was a week since Christopher had been grounded. That night, a folded letter with my name written on it was posted through the door, however, when my parents had opened the door, no one had been there. I unfolded the letter. What was written there was simple but it tore my heart in pieces.
My dove. I understand what happened.
No, this was not fair! I didn’t deserve understanding! Understanding was a form of forgiveness and I had done something unforgivable. I felt as I had in the field waiting for a punishment that had never come, but this was a hundred times worse.
I cried on my bed, as I had every night, but before I went to sleep, I tucked the note in a useful pouch at the back of the diary where I was keeping my physical memories (which, at the moment, only comprised Christopher’s notes). Although the letter was painful, I couldn’t bring myself to throw something away that was a part of Christopher, even if it was just his writing.
The following day, I received a letter from Rick. It read, ‘I think I love you’. I kept it to remind me of what a monster I was. It was nice to be punished at last. I felt extremely satisfied when the pain had finished washing over me, but I was in no way content.
Two days after Rick’s letter, I finally felt strong enough to sort out my problems. I was still numb but things felt a little more real as I set off across the field to the Parkers’.
Tentatively, I knocked on the old familiar door. With a pang, I recalled jumping into Charlie’s arms and frantically kissing him. I quickly pushed the memory away. I was going to need clear thoughts today.
Harry answered. He looked careworn and a lot older than when I’d last seen him.
“Harry, I’ve come to sort things out,” I said. At least feeling had returned to my voice.
“Wait in the living room. Who do you want to see?”
“Charlie, please. I may come back tonight to see Christopher and Rick if that’s all right.”
“Sure.” He looked surprised when I mentioned Rick. I was surprised he was still here.
When Charlie walked in, I nearly cried. He looked very unhappy. Also, his hair was messier than usual and he looked thin and tired.
“What do you want, Terri?” he asked in a tired voice.
“I came to apologise for what happened last time I was here,” I replied gently.
“Don’t you think you’ve left it a bit long?”
“I’m really sorry; I just had to sort myself out before trying to deal with other people. I know it sounds selfish, but I just didn’t feel strong enough.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“No,” I sighed. “I don’t know what happened.”
“What do you mean you don’t know what happened?” He sounded frustrated. “Did you kiss Rick or not?”
“Yes.” I didn’t know how to explain that I hadn’t known what I was doing until I was kissing him.
“Did I upset you?” he asked, surprised.
“No!” I exclaimed, surprised. “You’ve never upset me...” I trailed off, realising I was lying. I changed my answer. “You’ve never intentionally hurt me.”
I winced, wishing I’d stuck with the lie. “I’ve only been upset because I’m selfish and ungrateful, and frankly, no good for you.”
“Selfish?” Charlie looked bewildered and confused.
“Yeah. I only thought about myself when you deserved so much more.”
Charlie frowned. “You could always... make it up to me...”
My brow furrowed. “What are you saying?”
Charlie continued to frown. “Call me crazy, Terri, but I’m still in love with you.”
My heart fluttered but I was devastated by his caring nature.
“Charlie,” I groaned. “I’m no good for you.”
“But you could be,” he pointed out. “If we helped each other though struggles.”
“I don’t think I could put you through that again.”
“I wouldn’t mind if we pulled through.”
“You’re far too decent...”
“At least think about it. And if you really can’t, let me know. But, at least give yourself a day or two.” He came towards me and hugged me awkwardly.
“I should go,” I murmured.
“Should you?” His voice may not have been musical and captivating, but it sure was tempting.
“I need a little... space,” I said truthfully. “And some time.”
“However long you need,” he said gently and smiled: a good-natured smile that depressed me further.
I hugged him tightly. “You’re incredible, Charlie.”
As I was leaving, I nearly bumped into Rick.
‘Sorry,’ came the startled voice in my head.
‘See you tonight,’ I told him with my thoughts.
He looked amazed as I closed the door behind me. Something’s changed about him, I thought to myself.
That evening, as soon as it got dark, I asked my mother to drive me to the Parkers’, telling her I’d just remembered something really important I’d forgotten to say earlier. Even so, she looked bemused.
A quarter of an hour later, I was waiting in the living room. Christopher entered, positively beaming.
‘My dove,’ he thought to me, his mental voice saturated with love. ‘Oh, I’ve missed you.’
“Don’t say that!” I said. “I was so awfully horrible to Charlie and to you. How can you forgive me?”
My dove, there is nothing to forgive. I told you in my note: I understand.
“I don’t,” I confessed.
Do you remember the previous night?
“Yeah, the night you got grounded.”
Well, my theory is that Charlie was boring you - actually I know he was boring you - and you needed more than friendship because you and I were about to be apart for a week. Rick reminded you of me and you were just so resigned and in need of support that you unthinkingly kissed him.
“That sounds about right.”
Which is why I don’t feel angry or hurt. My dove, I cringed when I remembered that Charlie had offered to teach you cricket. You hate sport. No wonder you still needed support when you left the room. So, shall we move on from this?
“Wait. Just because I needed support, doesn’t justify my actions. I kissed Rick. And who’s to say Charlie won’t bore me again?”
My dove, I couldn’t care less if you kissed a dozen boys during the day.
“I could. Think of Charlie! And I could hardly only go out with you. One, it’s not fair because Charlie could never have a proper girlfriend and two, it’s not fair for me to say I love you yet not love your daytime self. “Also,” I took a deep breath before continuing, “I enjoyed kissing Rick.”